World Cup Qualifiers | When India qualified for the 1986 World Cup, they were allowed to play in the group stage of the qualifying rounds for the first time in 1985.

In Jakarta, they played Indonesia in their first-ever World Cup qualifying match, in which they lost 2-1. The Blue Tigers’ lone goal came from Krishanu Dey.

India was allowed to compete in the final of the 1950 World Cup in Brazil as three countries from their qualifying group, Burma (now Myanmar), the Philippines, and Indonesia, elected to withdraw from the competition. As a consequence, the Blue Tigers were handed a World Cup berth on a silver platter.

Unfortunately, India has also opted to withdraw from the tournament for a variety of reasons. In those days, Indian players did not wear boots and preferred to play barefoot, which was not permitted by FIFA. Another argument was that the players were used to playing 70-minute matches in domestic football, thus playing 90 minutes at the top level may have been humiliating.

The third reason cited by several historians (including Novy Kapadia in his book ‘The Football Fanatic’s Essential Guide: 2018 World Cup Special’) is that the Indian government, as a newly independent nation, was unable to financially support the team’s trip to Brazil, which took nearly a month by ship at the time. As a result, they opted to compete in the Olympics, which was seen as a more prominent competition at the time.

India’s withdrawal from the event in 1950 allegedly irritated FIFA, who prevented India from competing in the qualifications for the 1954 edition of the event. India did not participate in the World Cup qualification matches for the next seven editions.

Following their participation in the 1986 World Cup qualifications, the Blue Tigers withdrew from the 1990 World Cup qualifiers before returning in the 1994 qualifying round.

India has only won nine matches in the nine tournaments it has competed in (a total of 48 matches). The qualifications in 2002 were their most successful campaign. In Bengaluru, India began their campaign by defeating a much superior UAE team 1-0. India has amassed 11 points in six matches, with three victories, two ties, and one win. In that edition, they also recorded their biggest-ever qualification victory, defeating Brunei 5-0.

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